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Kraemer, S.B. (1996). “Betwixt the Dark and the Daylight” of Maternal Subjectivity: Meditations on the Threshold. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(6):765-791.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(6):765-791

“Betwixt the Dark and the Daylight” of Maternal Subjectivity: Meditations on the Threshold

Susan B. Kraemer, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysts have long looked to maternal experience to enhance our appreciation of what we may be feeling in our work. This tradition has drawn on psychoanalysis's construction of a particular kind of good-enough mother who is typically muted in her subjectivity. Contemporary efforts are relying on more subjectively complex descriptions of mothering to make sense of the analyst's subjective experience. However, even recent portrayals of the maternal misapprehend the degree to which mothering strains the ability of all mothers to tolerate ambivalence and tend to simply replace previous idealizations with updated prototypes. The mother as currently constructed is valorized both for her resilience and for her ability to play easily with her feelings of hate and aggression toward her baby. The questions of how the mother feels about what she feels and what she does with how she feels are not addressed. Ironically, insights derived from an increased appreciation of the mutual affect and impact that characterizes the analytic relationship are often set aside in discussing maternal experience. Suggestions are made for ways in which maternal analytic metaphors need to be reconfigured in order to capture and incorporate more finely textured notions of maternal experience.

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